How to build a ‘good life’: a 75 year study of happiness

It’s the longest study of happiness every undertaken… for the past 75 years, Harvard’s Grant and Glueck study has tracked the physical and emotional well-being of 724 people*. In this short TED Talk by Robert Waldinger, current director of the study, the key finding is simple: the good life is built with good relationships.

Good relationships – not wealth or fame – are what keep us happier and healthier. “It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship,” says Waldinger. “It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”

To build successful relationships you need to make connection a priority and take your personal growth seriously. Melanie Curtin articulates this beautifully in her article Leading a Fulfilling Life:

It’s the quality of the relationships–how much vulnerability and depth exists within them; how safe you feel sharing with one another; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are, and truly see another. This is a very good reminder to prioritize not only connection but your own capacity to process emotions and stress. If you’re struggling, get a good therapist. Join a support group. Invest in a workshop. Get a grief counselor.

In summary, relationships can be messy and complicated, but they are well-worth the effort.

* The study included two populations of men: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study).

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